Auburn Football: 5 Louisiana Tech Players to Watch This Week

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Nov 9, 2013; Ruston, LA, USA; Louisiana Tech Bulldogs running back Kenneth Dixon (28) runs away from Southern Miss Golden Eagles linebacker C.J. Perry (40) during the second half at Joe Aillet Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

This Saturday, the No. 5 Auburn football team will welcome Louisiana Tech for a non-conference Homecoming matchup. The Bulldogs enter the game with a 2-2 record, including a 1-0 mark against Conference USA foes.

Auburn, 3-0 on the season and 1-0 in SEC play, is a heavy favorite to win. The game is expected to be a tune-up for the Tigers prior to next week’s showdown with LA Tech’s in-state counterpart LSU. However, there are a handful of very talented Louisiana Tech players that Auburn fans should keep a close eye on this week.

#28 Kenneth Dixon, 5-foot-10, 212 pounds, Junior, Running Back

It’s hard to imagine a better start to a career than the one Kenneth enjoyed as a freshman at Louisiana Tech. Just check out the opening lines of his bio on the school’s official website:

"A Freshman All-America selection that was named a 2013 National Player to Watch by the Touchdown Club of Columbus … Named the WAC Freshman of the Year and a First Team All-WAC honoree as well as being named the Louisiana Freshman of the Year and first team All-Louisiana … The NCAA statistical champion in scoring with an average of 14.00 points per game … Ran for 1,194 yards and an NCAA record for a freshman 27 touchdowns on 200 attempts, averaging 6.0 yards per carry and 99.5 yards per game … Also caught 10 passes for 35 yards and one touchdown, setting a new NCAA record for total touchdowns scored by a freshman in a season (28) …"

All that production helped Louisiana Tech win nine games in 2012 and it helped head coach Sonny Dykes become the head coach at Cal. Following Dykes’ departure, the Bulldogs fell to 4-8 under new head coach Skip Holtz, who like Dykes is the son of a legendary college football head coach.

Overall, the offense struggled in 2013. The program that averaged 51.5 points per game the previous season skidded to just 19.2 points per contest in Holtz’s first season in Ruston. Louisiana Tech failed to score more than 15 in any of their eight losses.

In other words, the Bulldogs had one of the most explosive and highest scoring offenses in all of college football in 2012 to a 111th national ranking in scoring offense in 2013.

Dixon was still productive last season, but he was limited by injuries. In ten games as a sophomore, Dixon ran for 917 yards on 151 carries – an impressive average of more than six yards per carry – but he found the end zone only four times on the ground. He caught ten passes for 85 yards and one more score.

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This year, he appears healthy and is off to a strong start. Through four games, the junior has 404 net rushing yards on 69 carries (5.9 yards per carry) and five touchdowns. Solidly built at 5-foot-10 and 212 pounds, Dixon runs with speed as well as power: he scored on a 99-yard run against Louisiana-Lafayette in Week 2 and impressed ULL even before the two teams played.

“The Tech running back, he’s a very good back,” ULL defensive lineman Justin Hamilton said in the week before the game. “He runs hard, hard to bring down. Very shifty. We’re just gonna have to do what we can to control the line of scrimmage as a defensive unit, and bring him down. Be great wrap-up tacklers, and get him to the ground.”

They didn’t of course, Dixon ran for 184 yards and two scores on only 12 carries against the Ragin’ Cajuns.

“There were some great individual efforts in this game,” Holtz said after the win.” I do not think I have ever seen a player play harder than Kenneth Dixon played in this football game from running routes to carrying the ball and to blocking. We asked him to stay in and block and I thought he competed his tail off the entire football game.”

It wasn’t the first time Dixon was acknowledged for his blocking ability in addition to his hard-nosed running style.

“If you watched him against Oklahoma, he is competing to the very end,” Louisiana-Lafayette head coach Mark Hudspeth said leading up to his team’s matchup with the Bulldogs. “This guy, you can tell he plays very hard. He’s very intense. And he is one great pass protector. He is cutting guys down right and left, all over the field. He’s a guy that, if you let him, he will get some momentum and he will put that team on his back.”

And Dixon’s role as a pass blocker is important because Louisiana Tech operates primarily from a four wide receiver set, and averages 34.75 pass attempts per game in 2014. But fortunately for the Bulldogs, Dixon is available to give the offense balance.

“It’s good to be balanced because one team can’t just come in and say we’re going to stop the run because we’ve got people out there that can make plays with the passing game and all that,” Dixon said. “They also can’t just come in and stop the pass because we’ve got a great offensive line and a great quarterback that can make reads and everything and we can get some stuff going with the running game.”